Immigrants to the United States are considerably less likely than American-born citizens to commit crimes or to be incarcerated. This is a well-known fact. But listening to the President, his staff, and his followers, you would think that immigrants commit all the worst crimes in the United States based on a bunch of unfounded, nonsensical rhetoric.
In order to understand why the numbers of immigrants who commit crimes are so low, it’s critical to understand why immigrants have fewer interactions with the criminal justice system in general.
Immigrants are subject to various kinds of formal and informal screening. In other words, institutions are incentivized to receive migrants who have an advantage that is relative to their origin-country counterparts, making them less disposed to commit crimes. Self-selection of low-crime-propensity immigrants into the United States appears to be the biggest driver. Not deportation. In fact, deportation is not a factor in low crime rates among immigrants
The broader question of how immigrants as a group affect crime rates requires an understanding of how changes in the legal status of immigrants can affect crime statistics. Evidence suggests that providing legal resident status to immigrants causes a reduction in crime. This is due to the increased employment opportunities for immigrants resulting in a substantial increase in the risk/costs of committing a crime.
However, restricting access to legal statuses also greatly limits employment opportunities for immigrants. This does lead to an increased crime rate, but mainly in regards to generating income. In total, unauthorized immigration does not have a significant effect on rates of violent crime or property crime.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has even weighed in declaring that while the overall percentage of immigrants (and the number of undocumented immigrants) in the United States both increased between 1990 and 2010, the violent crime rate during that time plummeted an astounding 45 percent and the property crime rate dropped by 42 percent.
Studies have also consistently found that immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than American-born citizens. Countless other studies have reinforced these facts, finding that the lowest crime rates are…